Louis-Claude Daquin

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Louis-Claude Daquin


• 1694 1772


A child prodigy and a student of Louis Marchand (not to mention godson of composer Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, who gave him his first keyboard lessons), Louis-Claude Daquin first attracted attention at age six, when he played the clavecin for King Louis XIV. Descent from a line of Jewish intellectuals did not impede his early professional progress. At age eight he conducted his own Beatus vir at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, and by age 12 he had become organist at the convent of Petit St.-Antoine, where the faithful flocked to hear the wunderkind organist as much as to attend religious services. In 1727 he triumphed over Jean-Philippe Rameau in a competition for a position he would hold for the rest of his substantial life, organist at St.-Paul. In 1732 he added to his duties organist of the Cordeliers, succeeding Marchand. As if this weren't enough, in 1739 he found himself appointed -- this time without competition -- as organist of the Chapelle Royale. Furthermore, he was given one of the four organ posts at Notre Dame in 1755. He also performed as a guest at several other venues. Just as conductor Herbert von Karajan held so many important simultaneous posts in the twentieth century that he was called the "music director of Europe," Daquin was the principal organist of Paris.

Daquin was a celebrated improviser, but he also wrote widely for publication; his most famous composition is the twittering bird piece Le Coucou. Christmastime always brings performances and recordings, particularly in France, of his Noëls pour l'orgue ou la clavecin. His other major publication is the Livre de pièces de clavecin, first published in 1735. Some of his pieces are strongly influenced by Couperin, but many are quite original; some are obsessed with a single, unvaried melodic unit, while others take an up-to-date, fully fleshed-out sonata form.